Natural vs. Synthetic
Nowadays, everyone, including soapmakers and other skincare product manufacturers, seem to have their own self-procured definition of the word "NATURAL".... and it's not always even nearly accurate and has truly diluted the meaning of the word. "Natural" is a powerful marketing BUZZ word, but may indeed be a word that cannot be totally defined. Just because something is "natural" does not necessarily mean that it is safe or recommended for use. This leaves consumers in the position of needing to read and understand labels & ingredients, and choose for themselves what they determine is a level of "naturalness" or otherwise that they feel most comfortable with.
FDA regulations are loosely enough defined that it's easy to "get by" with calling some products "100% natural" that in reality, are not even close.
I, for one, do not choose to stretch the truest meanings of "natural" that I can find, thereby confusing or mis-educating customers. I choose to tell you what IS or ISN'T natural in my product lines, list ingredients so you can make an honestly "informed" selection, and choose what YOU feel is best for your skincare needs.
I've been a total purist in my early studies of soapmaking. When I first "opened shop", I only offered soap made naturally...i.e. aside from my all-natural soap base, I scented only with pure essential oils (the very essence of plant material extracted with steam distillation or cold compression). While my all-natural soaps (Essential Oil Scented Soaps & Unscented) continue to sell briskly, a large number of customers began requesting scents unattainable through "all-natural" means (i.e. there's no "mango" essential oil, but there IS a mango fragrance oil--which is synthetically produced). I tried adding some synthetic "fragrance oils" to my continued all-natural soap BASE recipe (thus creating 95% natural soaps - Fragrance Scented Soaps), to offer scent selection to those requesting it. Only the finest pre-tested and cosmetic-grade fragrance oils are used, and to-date, nearly all that we use are phthalate-free. So far, the response has been tremendous! Customers appreciate the opportunity to select from a wider scent variety, YET, be informed about their selection from the "what's in this soap?" point of view. I agree with them! I offer both naturally-scented soaps, as well as fragrance oil-scented soaps, listed on separate pages of our website, and soap labels indicate the difference as well!
The choice is yours! We personally find ourselves preferring all-natural and moving more in that direction in the product lines we offer. However, we feel conscious that many consumers reject all-natural products in favor of synthetic scents they've grown to love, ...yet we hope our offerings of otherwise natural products (except for 5% scenting in our Fragranced line) may be a stepping stone toward consumers re-thinking their choices at least, and adopting an attitude of trying more natural products and making them part of their daily skincare routine...for themselves, and the environment!
The Food and Drug Association (FDA) is the branch of the federal government which regulates the use of color additives in Food, Drugs and Cosmetics. Our soap is not a cosmetic, but listed rather under "true soap". "Natural" color additives are classified by the FDA as "Exempt from Certification". These colors come directly from plants or animals such as seeds (annatto), roots (tumeric), vegetables (red cabbage, beet juice), algae (beta carotene), insects (carmine), fruits (grape juice), etc. These exempt colors are
regulated by the Code of Federal Regulations Title 21 Part 73. There are 28 such natural colors permitted for use in cosmetics.
Because "natural" is defined as being directly from plants or animals, color additives which are derived from the earth would not be considered "natural" by the FDA's definition. Rather, mineral pigments are called "Inorganic" ("non-living"). There are a number of inorganic color additives used in soap and cosmetics: iron oxides (reds, browns, blacks, etc.), ultramarines (blues, violets), chromium oxide green, and a variety of whites such as titanium dioxide.
While this is technically incorrect, many handcrafted soapmakers and toiletry makers commonly refer to these inorganic colors as "natural" colors because of their origins, being mined from the earth. This practice may be an attempt to make-clear or differentiate mineral pigments from Coal Tar Dyes for the end consumer.
Again, the choice is yours!
Also worth considering is the fact that our soap products are a "wash-off" product that is non-residue, so fragrance is not sitting on your skin, absorbing into your body such as products like lotions or creams. In fact most of our customers comment that they wish our soap scents stayed on the skin longer. But due to the purity of our base soap recipe and high risibility, scents do not linger long on the skin.
ESSENTIAL OILS = Natural - In the "true" sense of the word. However even some "natural" essential oils can carry risks and dangers! Some should be avoided during pregnancy, by those who suffer epilepsy, and some can be harsh skin-irritants if used in excess!
FRAGRANCE OILS = Synthetic - "Synthetic" is "not all-natural." Some people are sensitive to anything synthetic. Knowledge of the presence of synthetics helps you choose what's best for your skin type. In some cases, use of a synthetic version of scent may be considered preferable to the harvesting of plant material to create a natural scent...for instance, in the case of sandalwood essential oil, where thousands of rainforest tress are harvested each year for sandalwood essential oil, contributing to the destruction of rainforests.
Pthalates in synthetic fragrance are under scrutiny for any potentialy harmful effects. The fragrance industry has moved significantly toward offering pthalate-FREE fragrances now and that is what we use most often. Some fragrances customers request for custom soaps are not available phthalate-free; we give the option.
PIGMENTS/OXIDES & ULTRAMARINES (COLORANTS) = "Natural" in that they are mined from the earth, but they must go through lab clean-up and heat processing to create their unique colors... so,... they are a manipulated form of their previously all-natural composition which came from the earth, but not considered 100% natural because they have been altered, as well as because the FDA defines natural as something that comes "directly from plants or animals". Pigments and micas come from minerals mined from the earth originally.
MICAS = Micas are usually coated with titanium
dioxide and heated to various temps to create their brilliant colors and
sparkle. Uncoated micas are pearlizing pigments, with no color (they give shimmer to products). Not all natural.
FD&C or FOOD GRADE COLOR COLORANTS = Synthetic. Not natural.
Whether "100% natural" ingredients are best or not is often subject to the user's personal experience. As often as someone, somewhere "may" have a reaction to something synthetic...there is likely someone, somewhere having a reaction to something "100% natural". We encourage you to familiarize yourself with WHAT ingredients are, know the inherent dangers in "natural" ingredients as well as synthetic ones. Also a critical factor to consider...how an ingredient was grown, harvested, or collected. EXAMPLE: "100% natural" means little-to-nothing if it was grown with pesticide-use or in an uncontrolled environment. I.e. if an organic farm is next to a non-organic farm, can one safely presume pesticides do not float over airborne to the organic farm? What environment can be completely controlled???
And so the debate continues...What EXACTLY is "natural"?.....